Pod Wrangler Makes Podcasts Easy

I like listening to podcasts on occasion, but I am by no means an avid listener like some people. And while I appreciate stunning design and I love a powerful app with tons of great functionality (think Pocket Casts), I start to fall asleep once somebody starts yammering on about the amazing things their favourite podcast app do. I get it — I’m the same way with my RSS apps. But my podcast needs are pretty simple: I just want to quickly find what I want to listen to, hit play, and enjoy.

This is why I was really intrigued by David Smith’s Pod Wrangler. It’s a podcast app that uses David Smith’s Feed Wrangler API as a backend sync. (If you don’t know, Feed Wrangler is an RSS service David built with its own vibrant and open API. It’s what I’ve been using in the wake of Google Reader’s demise.) Pod Wrangler is incredibly simple and straightforward. Instead of being loaded with functionality that makes the experience feel convoluted, its barebones nature helps me get in and out of the app as quickly as possible. It’s a perfect fit for the way I listen to podcasts. Read on to find out if Pod Wrangler is perfect for you too.Like the article? You should subscribe and follow us on twitter.

Simplicity at Its Finest

Opening up Pod Wrangler for the first time is a bit of an eye-opener. For some people, the app is going to be everything wrong with iOS 7. Other folks will find the design is a bit of fresh air in a world focused on candy colours and gradients. But no matter how you feel about Pod Wrangler’s aesthetic, the design is definitely simple.

The app is ridiculously simple.

The app is ridiculously simple.

I hesitate to call it vanilla, though — I feel that’s always an insult. To call an app design vanilla is to say “of course this is how you would design an app like this if you’re interested in simple designs,” but the thing is, this is the opposite. This is an exercise in restraint. With Pod Wrangler, my first thought was, “Of course this is how a podcast app meant for easy listening should be.” But I never felt the design was obvious.

The design isn't perfect, and I hesitate to call it vanilla, but it's very white.

The design isn’t perfect, and I hesitate to call it vanilla, but it’s very white.

That’s not to say that this design is perfect. There are a couple flaws with the entirety of the experience. But from an interface perspective, simply one of aesthetic appeal, Pod Wrangler is exactly what a no-frills “get in and get out” podcast experience should be. There are no distractions, and apart from the purple Feed Wrangler colour branding, there are very little deviations from stock iOS 7 design standards. For some, that’s bland. For me, it’s just simple.

All that being said, I’m not a fan of the icon. It’s not something I’d want on my home screen.

The Backend

Of course, how it looks is uninteresting compared to how it works. Pod Wrangler uses the Feed Wrangler API and backend for syncing your subscriptions. This means that sync is instantaneous. I’ve been using Feed Wrangler for a while now, and although it hasn’t always been perfect at crawling my subscriptions for new content (it’s improved in the past couple months), it’s always been excellent at subscription management. Nothing ever gets lost in translation.

If there's one thing that's really reliable about Feed Wrangler, it's the backend subscription sync service.

If there’s one thing that’s really reliable about Feed Wrangler, it’s the backend subscription sync service.

This leads me to some other questions about the service, particularly about its future. I’d love to see Pod Wrangler on the iPad. (I can’t speak to the veracity of it coming or not; I don’t know David Smith and have no idea what his plans are.) If David were to hypothetically release it, I’d be curious as to whether or not the Feed Wrangler API can support location syncing. I’d love to put down my iPhone after a drive and pick up my iPad to continue listening. I have little doubts that the backend is excellent and stable; this is a feature I’d love to see.

I’m also curious as to whether or not any third-party developers will choose to use the Feed Wrangler API for podcast sync. I use Reeder on my iPhone for Feed Wrangler instead of the official app because while I love the service, my RSS tastes don’t align with the app. I’d love to see what other developers would do with the Feed Wrangler API.

“Choose a Show. Hit Play.”

When David Smith released the app, he said his goal was to make the process as simple as “Choose your favourite shows” and “Hit Play.” It’s almost that profoundly simple. Finding a podcast is as easy as hitting the Add button and browsing through Popular podcasts, Categories, Providers, Recommended, or even add by Feed URL or links to an MP3 file. Pod Wrangler, just like Feed Wrangler, also supports OPML import if you’re moving your subscriptions from another app.

Subscribing to a podcast is a piece of cake.

Subscribing to a podcast is a piece of cake.

If you find a feed you’d like to subscribe to, it’s as easy as hitting the Subscribe button. A list of the shows you’ve subscribed to is always available from the app’s main screen whenever you boot up the app, so access is never farther than a tap or two away.

What I really like about the app, though, is that it includes the ability download individual shows. I often read about interesting one-off episodes of podcasts in my RSS feeds, but rarely am I interested in subscribing. This feature downloads a show’s MP3 file without actually subscribing you to the program, which I think is great.

Finding shows is also pretty easy, and the search function works well.

Finding shows is also pretty easy, and the search function works well.

If you’re like me and you prefer to stream your audio because you have a huge or unlimited mobile data plan, the MP3 file isn’t actually downloaded. Just like any of your subscriptions, it’s available for easy access whenever you open the app.

In general, though, Pod Wrangler’s are pretty bare. Unlike Feed Wrangler, Pod Wrangler doesn’t support Smart Streams (although that would make an interesting addition). Your unheard podcasts can be played in a running queue, and the Wrangle feature allows you to mark episodes as Heard if you want to skip them. In the Options, you can adjust the Fast Speed from 1.1x to 2x and turn on or off Push Notifications. But that’s it. There’s not much here. Feature-hungry users will want to look elsewhere.

This is about as intense as organization gets.

This is about as intense as organization gets.

I do wish there were a couple other features. I wish that the Wrangle button allowed you to easily adjust the order of podcasts in your queue. I also wish that the Search was universal for both my subscriptions and the directory. I don’t want to have to hit the Add button every time I’m looking for a new podcast to subscribe to when the Search field beneath it is taunting me.

The app is also at a generous price point. It’s free-to-download for anybody, but a $2 in-app purchase allows users to subscribe to more than five podcasts, get push notifications, and no ads. If you’re a Feed Wrangler subscriber, like myself, you get full premium access at no additional cost with your login credentials. It’s a smart system and I think it’s going to serve David well.

Final Thoughts

I feel that Pod Wrangler could replace Apple’s Podcasts app for many people. It has a significantly better design that’s (ironically) more in line with the iOS 7 guidelines, and its backend is very stable and reliable. And although it’s shy in features compared to the competition, I don’t think David is trying to compete. He’s just trying to make something really nice, and he’s very much succeeded.

That being said, Pod Wrangler isn’t for everybody. It’s decidedly simple. As David Smith called it in his announcement blog post, Pod Wrangler is extremely opinionated software. It won’t work for everybody, but it’s nearly perfect for my needs. And at the bargain-bin entry price of free, you have nothing to lose by giving it a shot.


Pod Wrangler is a dead-simple podcasts app that makes listening and subscribing to podcasts easy and painless, particularly for existing Feed Wrangler users.

  • Pod Wrangler 1.0.1  | 
  • Free; $1.99 in-app purchase unlocks ad-free unlimited subscriptions, and Feed Wrangler subscribers get premium for free  | 
  • David Smith